x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UN vote reflects Yemen’s fragility

Sanctions against individuals that destabilise Yemen's political transition show that peace is not assured for Arabia's poorest nation.

For all the considerable progress that Yemen has made since the start of its uprising three years ago, the fragility of the peace that has prevailed is reflected in the UN Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against anyone threatening the nation’s peace, security or stability as it completes its political transition process.

That Arabia’s poorest nation was able to implement a political solution to its crisis, by easing president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office after a year of increasingly violent protests, is remarkable. That is doubly so given that the uprising had already escalated to the point where a rebel faction of the army had shelled the presidential palace. The implications of the uprising’s violent trajectory continuing in Yemen is demonstrated by other Arab Spring nations such as Syria, which has descended into bloody civil war.

Even more impressive is that peace has prevailed in this notoriously fractious nation during the two-year process of national political dialogue, despite separatist movements in the south and a series of increasingly brazen attacks by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which as recently as December attacked a military hospital in the capital.

Ordinary Yemenis living amid a deterioration of the nation’s already fragile social fabric would not be so quick to praise the nation’s progress. Certainly life remains difficult, but one need only look at Syria to see that the alternative to this political process is truly unthinkable. Yemenis should not judge the political transition based on whether progress is made on other governance-related issues.

Yemen’s peaceful progression remains in no way assured, which is why the Security Council adopted a British-drafted resolution threatening sanctions against any person or group that imperil Yemen’s stability. This includes the creation of a sanctions committee that would have power to impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals. It is no secret that the individuals the move is aimed at include Mr Saleh and his former vice president, Ali Salim Al-Beidh.

This is a commendable example of solidarity by the Security Council, a group rarely lauded for its resolutions about the Middle East. But the international community doing what it can to allow this fragile peace to continue is clearly in the interests of everyone, not least ordinary Yemenis who yearn for a stable and prosperous homeland.